A high school football coach known for praying on the field after games has been placed on paid administrative leave after Satanists asked to hold their own invocation at Thursday night's game.
Bremerton School District, located near Seattle, said late Thursday that coach Joe Kennedy had been placed on leave for his "refusal to comply with the District’s lawful and constitutionally required directives that he refrain from engaging in overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty as a coach."
Kennedy had been asked not to pray on the field after games, but has continued to do so and has even threatened to sue the district.
He was placed on leave shortly after the local chapter of the Satanic Temple said it had been invited by at least one student to give an invocation on the field after the game.
"The school district needs to create religious opportunity for everyone or ban it completely," class president Abe Bartlett, one of the students who contacted the Satanic Temple, told the Kitsap Sun. "There can’t be a middle ground."
The district said that while no players complained about the prayer sessions, some may have felt coerced to join in.
"It is very likely that over the years, players have joined in these activities because to do otherwise would mean potentially alienating themselves from their team, and possibly their coaches," the statement said. "The District has a fundamental obligation to protect the rights of all of its students."
The district didn't mention the Satanists by name in its statement, but said it would not allow other groups to make use of the field during district functions such as the football game.
However, the Satanic Temple immediately released a statement of its own withdrawing its request to hold an invocation in light of the suspension.
"A big shout-out to the Bremerton School District for taking prompt and decisive action to stop coach Kennedy from continuing to violate the law with his public prayers while on duty," Lilith Starr, head of the Seattle chapter of the Satanic Temple, wrote on Facebook. "By putting him on paid administrative leave and releasing a strongly-worded public statement, the district has sent an extremely clear signal that they will hold fast the line between church and state."
Starr said that while the temple will not be performing an invocation, members still plan to attend the game "in support of the students, teachers and community members who asked us to come represent their beliefs."
(h/t Raw Story)
Also on HuffPost: